More than 2,100 migrants arrive on Italian island of Lampedusa

‘We need to restart discussions about the immigration issue,’ says island’s mayor

Rory Sullivan
Monday 10 May 2021 16:22
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<p>Lampedusa is one of the main entry points for migrants coming from Tunisia and Libya</p>

Lampedusa is one of the main entry points for migrants coming from Tunisia and Libya

More than 2,100 migrants have reached the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa in the past 24 hours, according to Italian media reports.

The 635 latest people arrived on Monday, following more than 1,400 who arrived on Sunday.

This comes amid an uptick in the number of people attempting to get to Europe to seek a new life.

As of last week, more than 11,000 migrants had arrived on the coasts of Italy this year, compared to 4,105 over the same period in 2020, interior ministry data shows.

Toto Martello, the mayor of Lampedusa, one of the main landing points for Europe, told Italian broadcaster Rai: “Migrant arrivals are resuming alongside good weather. We need to restart discussions about the immigration issue.”

Although there are still fewer crossings than there were at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015, the issue is back in the spotlight.

Lampedusa’s migrant housing centre, which had been empty until Sunday, has filled up, according to media reports. Lampedusa is a 20-square-kilometre (about 8-square mile) island, closer to northern Africa than the Italian mainland.

Tunisia and Libya are two of the main departure points for people making the perilous Mediterranean crossing. As well as those who disembarked on Lampedusa, the Libyan coast guard returned 600 migrants – many of whom were women and children – to Tripoli and Zawiya on Sunday, according to UNHCR.

There were also boats spotted off Malta, which the charity Alarm Phone said needed help. “One rescue operation could put a total of around 231 people out of danger of drowning,” it tweeted.

In recent years there have been similar surges in springtime in the number of migrant arrivals, as human traffickers take advantage of the good weather.

The subject of immigrations is deeply divisive in Europe, with Matteo Salvini, a populist Italian politician, claiming on Sunday that Italy “cannot care for thousands of illegal migrants”, as Italians faced their own difficulties.

The former deputy Italian prime minister, who is leader of the right-wing League party, awaits trial over a charge of illegal detention, relating to his decision to block a rescue ship with over 100 migrants from landing at Lampedusa in August 2019.

Italy has been criticised by the international community for failing to help migrants in desperate need of assistance. Earlier this year, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that the country had failed to protect people’s right to life when it did not respond quickly to distress calls from a vessel in 2013, which later capsized south of Lampedusa, killing more than 200 people.

Additional reporting from Reuters

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